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My Name Is Iris


My Name Is Iris

From the PEN/Hemingway Award-winning author of THE MADONNAS OF ECHO PARK comes a new work that is so relevant to this era of immigrant experience that it will be a lasting testament to the difficulties of this particularly unjust time of political and social turmoil.

MY NAME IS IRIS is a poignant and angry answer to the fight to prove one’s identity: Where were you born, and where do you belong? In order to answer these questions, Iris Prince must go to bat for herself, her child, and a community pressured by hate and danger at every turn. Brando Skyhorse concocts a deeply soulful novel that exemplifies the most ardent struggles of our indigenous and immigrant population.

"Living this journey with Iris is difficult, joyful, scary and angering in equal measure. MY NAME IS IRIS brings to light so many questions that exist in our country right now and for which there are no easy answers."

Iris just wanted things to be simple. When she and her husband finally file for divorce after years of drifting apart, she is amazed by the mature and drama-free life they maintain. With her nine-year-old daughter, Melanie, spending more time with her, she feels that she is finally finding a stable relationship to the world around her. But the morning that she awakens to find her home completely surrounded by a large wall, she has a million questions: Where did it come from? Why is it growing every day? Why is it in her neighborhood?

However, it is new tech that holds the answer --- namely a product called "the Band," which replaces your IDs or licenses and becomes the means to track local utilities. Okay, fine, but is the Band for everyone? No. If you cannot prove that your parents were born in the United States, then you do not get one. Iris is a second-generation Mexican American and now considered of “unverified origin.” The fight to prove and disprove citizenship all around the country launches a climate of further fear and hate-based violence, which threatens to impact Iris and her family. How far will she go to protect those she loves the most in this new world order?

“I felt I was on the verge of understanding something significant about my identity, something I have tried to return to in rare, fleeting moments since college when, troubled by excruciating strokes of fear and anxiety, I paused what I was doing to examine the source of panic that led me to ask again and again, Who am I?” The story, told in first person, gives us a frightened but rational Iris, who is trying to maintain dignity and not fall prey to anger and depression as the situation grows more dire. She is a stand-in for all the real-life families who have had to prove that they deserve the “freedom” that the U.S. claims to provide. But if you are constantly being pushed farther and farther to the sidelines by reckless politicking, how do you survive?

Iris’ trip to a Dollar General store is full of an open-eyed pathos with which Skyhorse has equipped his protagonists, no matter the situation. Iris sees the world in primary colors; there is no room for poetry in this fight-or-flight response to a fascistic and devious power play with men and women who have done nothing to deserve this treatment. The whitewashing of history is offset by the painful realizations that Iris makes as she finds her own status changing due to this new rule. And the message comes through loud and clear that tech can be manipulated and empowered to help separate the citizenry of any country into a small set of haves and a larger set of have-nots.

Living this journey with Iris is difficult, joyful, scary and angering in equal measure. MY NAME IS IRIS brings to light so many questions that exist in our country right now and for which there are no easy answers. Iris isn’t waiting for the Age of Aquarius to bring us peace. She is waging that battle individually, and I celebrate every word of her story.

Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on September 22, 2023

My Name Is Iris
by Brando Skyhorse

  • Publication Date: August 1, 2023
  • Genres: Dystopian, Fiction
  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Avid Reader Press/Simon & Schuster
  • ISBN-10: 1982177853
  • ISBN-13: 9781982177850